DH = Dear Husband
The Road Race Analogy
When DH and I first started our journey out of debt in June 2012, I compared debt reduction to a 10 km road race. That analogy works in many ways. You start off with adrenaline, confident that you’ll finish the race, daring to hope that you’ll beat the time you’ve set as your goal. After the first kilometer or so, the adrenaline has drained, and you establish a steady pace.
We did indeed start our journey out of debt fuelled by adrenaline. We had just read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover; we were psyched; and in an unfamiliar state of complete unity on our finances, we ran a great “first kilometer”. In the six months from June 2012-November 2012, we paid off over 10% of our huge $257,000 debt. Our second six-month period, from December 2012-May 2013, was strong because it started out well. We paid off just over 9% of our original total. But after this point, the analogy of the road race doesn’t work. We haven’t settled into a steady pace. DH is self-employed, and his business had an alarming slow-down in the spring. Then through the summer, we had huge expenses amounting to over $15,000:
– rotting tree had to be cut down – $2,000
– new roof needed – $10,000
– van repairs – $900
– vet bills for dog’s kidney stones – $1,300 (Ugh!)
Our third six-month period is turning out to be dramatically lower than our first two. In the four months since the beginning of June, we’ve managed only our regular mortgage payments. So far in this “third kilometer”, we’ve paid off just over 1% of our original total. Hmmm . . . Doesn’t sound like much of a road race.
The Weight-Loss Analogy
In some ways, the analogy of weight loss works. Again, there’s that strong determination and discipline at the beginning, resulting in a quick and encouraging shedding of pounds. Then there’s often a plateau period, when the scales don’t budge despite a continuing effort. That fits with our debt-reduction experience. Furthermore, an injury can make it impossible for the person losing weight to exercise for a period of time – just like DH’s lower income in the spring slowed our progress for a time. But here is where the weight loss analogy falls short: Never is anyone forced to eat too much. Holidays and celebrations can make overeating difficult to resist, but no one with a weight-loss goal ever has to eat a huge amount. By contrast, the debtor trying to shed debt sometimes does have to pay for big expenses. We’ve certainly had to.
The Uphill Cycling Analogy
Dave Ramsey, our debt-reduction guru, gives another analogy for debt-reduction in his book The Total Money Makeover. He compares it to a tough uphill bicycle ride that ends at the summit and that is followed by an exhilarating downhill coast. As an overall picture, the uphill cycling trek works, but it needs detail. When you’re in the midst of the long period of debt-reduction, you’re keenly aware of the different gradations involved. For us the slope, while always uphill, has at times been very easy. In the month of December 2012, for instance, we paid $10,000 off our debt in one fell swoop. At other times, the uphill slope has been extremely steep. Over March and April, when DH’s income was at a low, we could make no payments against the debt. And then there are those times when you have to stop and go off the side of the road to replace a leaking inner tube or to realign wheels, and there’s no progress until that bike is ready to go again. It’s been like that for us these last few months. We’ve had to pull off the road, pay off some huge expenses, and get ourselves ready to continue the uphill effort.
– We paid off Debts #1 ($8,600) and #2 ($12,800) along with some mortgage debt ($4,500) in our first six months – almost $26,000.
– We paid off $19,500 from Debt #3 ($80,800) along with some mortgage debt ($4,500) in our second six months – $24,000
– Two-thirds into our third six months, we’ve paid about $3,000 off of our mortgage. And that’s it.
But we’re road ready again, and eager to pedal against the slope.
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